Thursday, 11 January 2018

A wee bit icy

Ski or bike....... bike or ski, ski or bike... bike or ski.... My tiny little brain was going around and around with these thoughts all night and in the end I didn't get much sleep! The forecast was for a blue bird day and I so wanted to ski but Mark at Orange Fox Bikes  was fixing my mountain bike and offered a demo plus bike to try today.....

charging in the forest
Its all a haze but I think that in the end I dithered so much that I left it too late to get over to the west coast to ski (best weather) and I decided that biking was the sensible option, besides this would also be slightly better for my ankle, which is improving and save lots of travel time.

So I picked up the Orbea Laufey plus bike and hit the local trails... It was pretty icy and snowy and I again wondered if I'd made the right choice but the views were stunning and the warmth from the sun restorative.

beautiful loch side riding
I've always secretly wanted to try a fat bike, but the new plus size bikes seem a better compromise. The Laufey is a hard tail with 650b/27.5" wheels with 2.8" tyres (that's the plus bit if unsure). Wow... as Mark had said it was super fun, with an incredible amount of grip and it didn't feel too draggy even though the tyres are run on a much lower pressure (15psi I think).

It gripped and flew on the snowy and forest trails and I (?almost) fell in love with it. On very rough terrain you do realise that its not got rear suspension, but only just and its the most fun bike I can remember trying and felt a super balanced (much more than my current trek!).

Come on fatty lets get home...
So did I make the right choice... Well I think the pictures capture some of the magic I felt today so.... maybe (hehe)!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Land and Sky merge

The plan was to go winter climbing but I wasn't sure what state Loz would be in on his arrival as it had been his Birthday party the night before.

The Mess of Pottage area
He arrived and respectably requested that I drive as he felt  a wee bit delicate and hadn't slept well...

land and sky merge
Again we headed to the Northern Corries as it seemed a safe bet. We had a rough plan of climbing 'The Message, IV, 6' on the Mess of Pottage but this plan looked in doubt until the very last minute as lots of teams (well maybe 6) were swarming the area.

Loz on the top corner
But leaving the route choice to the last minute it all worked out with only one team ahead and the other teams on neighbouring routes we got on it as planned.

Another team topping out
I lead off in a wild frenzy of a Blizzard, but the weather settled for the remaining pitches. It was never particularly good weather as you will see from the pictures and my camera got pretty wet on the rare times it came out.

Happy on top!
The route was amazing! Every pitch was good, and the 2 corners were just a joy to climb on great hooks. A thoroughly enjoyable day, only slightly marred by slipping on the icy path in the dusk 1/2 a mile from the car and spraining my ankle :-(. I'm hobbling today but don't think its broken and it was worth it to get the best route on the Mess of Pottage in!

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Exploring the Monadhliath

After a fun Christmas day at Contin and a late cycle back home after a day of excesses it was difficult  to get up early on Boxing day, but with work the following I was (mildly) determined to get out and head up a hill.

The road to redemption!?

I settled on the Monadhliath as the weather looked better in this area and surprised myself by getting to Garva Bridge by about 9am!

Looking back down the broad ridge

The top comes into view
The walk up Geal Charn was very pleasant, with a dusting of fresh snow, clouds blowing in and out and not another soul on the hill today - bliss.

Mince pie time
Pretty cold at the summit and I sheltered on top for what felt like awhile taking in the views and eating mince pies. But I couldn't have been too long because I was back at the van in less than 5 hours.
Playing with the shadows

Bye for now beautiful mountain
A nice easy day blowing away the cobwebs.

Monday, 11 December 2017

The Jury's out....

I used to winter climb a little..... but I kind of 'retired' from it when I lived in England. On reflection this was for a few reasons, notably that there's a lot of suffering, type 2 fun and also I think I got sick of the 6-8 hour drive from England, nights sleeping in a car, before suffering all day on a route, then a ubiquitous other uncomfortable night and day, before the long drive home... And that was fun right!?!

And then there was the last time I winter climbed on the Ben when after the long drive etc we didn't actually complete a climb as it wasn't in condition, we bailed, had no time for another route as we'd been so slow on the approach and when we set off driving home my car turbo blew up and we had a 12 hour AA return journey home and a £3000 car bill.. yeah I think that's when I stopped winter climbing for a while.

Nice walk in
Then I discovered skiing and whenever it was snowy and I had the chance I opted to ski, which was great but included ditching a winter climbing trip/stay in the CIC hut to ski - sorry Shaw but the skiing was very good in Glenshee that particular weekend!

Many options
So after maybe 5 years of not winter climbing (that's a guess) last winter I did one winter route (Golden Oldie, II) with Shaw and it was brilliant fun. Because I prioritised skiing and last winter was a poor winter that was it and I didn't really think much more about it.

I was belaying honestly!

After 2 tech pitches Loz on easy ground
So I wasn't really sure if I'd do much winter climbing again but I live in the Highlands and winter is here! Whats a guy to do when Loz invites you out for climb!?

We headed to the Northern Corries on a beautiful cold day (-10) and climbed 'Ordinary Route - IV, 5' on Alladins Buttress. With fresh snow and little consolidation it was mixed climbing season.

topping out at sunset

The route was quite technical climbing (for me) with lots of hooking and torquing of the axes. Again there was suffering as I lost feeling in my feet and hands as Loz made meticulous progress on the first pitch searching for gear, and I felt like I was going to spew when I got the hot aches following the pitch, but yeah this was starting to be fun!

Another team topping out

Looking to a bare shelterstone crag
My pitch was technical but I was totally absorbed in the climbing and loved every meter of it! Loz said that he could hear me talking to myself the whole pitch, not sure what I was saying! We topped out as the sun was setting (we'd had a leisurely morning start) and it was beautiful and clear.

Down we go
Being on the plateau in the evening light after a day in an icy corner system was magical and we savoured it as we headed back dropping down into the ski area. So now I'm confused, because I loved the winter climb, how will I now choose between skiing and winter climbing...?!

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Quick winter fix

After a long 6 day work stint I wanted to play at the weekend, but was also tired so the thought of an early start wasn't appealing. When I checked the weather it looked the best in the South Cairngorm/Monadhliath area so I packed my bed and alarm for a leisurely 8am..

I did have a few ideas and options, but looking at the weather and snow on the drive South I opted for the Drumochter area. I parked up and headed for Meall Chuaich via Loch Cuaich in the fresh snow. There were 4-5 other people heading the same way, and ended up walking most of the route a nice guy called John.

John on top
The weather and cloud rolled in and out, the light was very flat, but it was wonderful to be out in the winter weather and wilds of Scotland. Its a short walk, so after 4-5 hours I was back at the van, swapped numbers with John (climber!) and headed back via soup at Ralia (very good!).

Flat light, great day 

Friday, 17 November 2017

Winter has arrived (for now)

Cath visited from Edinburgh and this coincided with a great start to winter, but will it last, thats the million dollar question for many...

Views back South to Rothimurchas

On Saturday we limbered up by heading to the Cairngorms and walked up Meall a' Bhuachaille from Glenmore. It's Gaelic name means 'rounded hill of the herdsman'. I've wanted to walk this wee hill to the West of Cairngorm for some time and today it was really enjoyable in the winter conditions.

The top!

Cath heading down
Great views of the bigger hills, Bynack More, Braeriach and Cairngorm to name a few flicked in and out of the cloud and snow showers. It was a good vantage point to piece together parts of the forest too.

Ryvoan Bothy

Cath in the bothy

Loch Uaine (green lochan)
All too quickly we were up and over and decending down to the lovely Ryvoan Bothy. After a pit stop here we headed back past the Green Lochan and an alternative forest path to finish.

Snow here we come

Beautiful natural patterns
We all felt in the zone so planned to go for a munro in Strathfarrar on the Sunday. Strathfarrar is a beautiful glen West of home, but it has tricky gated access. In the summer you register, take a ticket, head up the glen and have to be let back out again before dusk. But I wasn't sure of the winter access rules.

Looking East to the Black Isle and sea
The internet suggested that it was open for car access all winter... We headed over at about 8:30am and to our surprise were faced with a 'glen closed' sign which helpfully informed us that it reopened to vehicular access in May!! Friction great! The further annoyance was that I only had the OS map for beyond the gates, where the munro was...

I started to think that the day was ruined, but after checking the (different) OS map on my phone realised that North of the gate/carpark was a Corbet, and it looked brilliant covered in fresh snow..

So it was a risk only having a map on my phone, but we decided to go for this hill as it looked beautiful, and to be honest we didn't have much choice at this point as we'd lose an hour or more going home for an alternative map.

Time to head back
We set off through an enclosed deer park set in a beautiful forest and headed for the snow line. Passing a hidden lochan it quickly became apparent that it was going to be a tough walk as there wasn't much of a path to follow, but it was amazing scenery.

Looking back
We got into the snow and it was fantastic, but such hard going on the pathless heathery terrain often in snow up to 12-18" deep. We climbed and toiled, snow showers blew in and out but for a while time stood still and we didn't seem to be getting any closer to the first top.

Eventually we got to Carn na Gabhalach, at just over 700m and realised we wouldn't get much further and back with the time available so called it a day and stopped at this point and soaked up the views before turning and heading for home.